The Camino de Santiago needs no explanation, but just in case you have never ever heard of it… here is the ‘Wikipedia’ description: The Camino de Santiago (Latin: Peregrinatio Compostellana, “Pilgrimage of Compostela”; Galician: O Camiño de Santiago), also known in English as the Way of St James, is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition holds that the remains of the apostle are buried.
If you walk at least 100km of any one route and collect stamps in your pilgrim passport (from churches, restaurants and places to stay) you can obtain your official pilgrim certificate from the office in Compostela. It might seem a little gimmicky… but it doesn’t feel like that. The sense of achievement is real, so why not celebrating it? But I’m getting ahead of myself.
My walking companion and I arrived in Tui after an easy flight from Gatwick to Santiago, a bus from Santiago to Valencia (in Portugal) and a short taxi transfer across the river to Tui (back in Spain). It sounds complicated, but it isn’t.
Oh and I should say our trip was organised by the very efficient and very lovely people at MacsAdventures. Do check them out, they offer some great trips.
But back to us and the Camino.
When we arrived to Tui, we dropped the bags in the hotel and headed out to explore… well, the heavens opened. Biblical rain, and I’m not being facetious with the adjectives… it was proper rain and it was cold. We decided to walk the Camino at the end of October because it was the only time we could do it, but what we hadn’t realised was that in Galicia – the region of Spain we were going to cross – October is basically the rainy season. We had the gear so it wasn’t much of a problem in the end, but it did pretty much rained everyday, not all day but everyday but one I think. Keep that in mind if you’re thinking of ‘walking the walk’.
Tui is a small town with a population of about 15,000 souls and a long long history. It began as a Roman settlement on the river Mino across from Portugal. Because of its strategic location it changed hands a lot (after the Romans, the Visigoth, the Vikings, the Arabs and finally the Spanish…). The results is the most fascinating old place, and it’s a pleasure to wonder the old streets.
Day one – Tui to Porrino, 17.2km
Day 2 – Porrino to Arcade, 23.50km
Day three – Arcade to Pontevedra, 13.4km
Day four – Pontevedra to Caldas de Rey, 22km
Day five – Caldas de Rey to Padron, 19km
Day six, Padron to Santiago de Compostela, 26km
And then you’re finally in Santiago, the last day is long but the immense feeling of happiness in reaching the sanctuary is hard to describe, even if you’re not religious, even if this is ‘just a walk’… Everybody around you is so happy, tired, exhausted, dirty, hungry… but smiling. People sit around, not wanting to leave, reflecting on what they have just achieved. Some call home, a lot of photos are taken. It’s a really human experience.
It is totally worth it.
And now I can call myself, officially, a pilgrim.